Indian hospitals to be made disaster resistant

April 15th, 2008 - 7:48 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) India has begun work to make its government-run hospitals disaster-resistant, especially in high seismic zones and coastal areas in the wake of earthquakes and the 2004 tsunami. While all the new hospitals, including the six All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)-like hospitals in the country, will be disaster resistant, the government has already started discussing the various steps needed to ensure that the rest of the health services meet the same criteria.

“Discussions are underway to take various steps to make our health facilities disaster resistant,” said a health ministry official.

The official was attending the World Health Organisation (WHO) regional consultation on keeping health facilities safe from disaster here Tuesday.

“Also, with WHO drawing our attention to this issue, the concept has also got more impetus,” he said.

The official said the premier AIIMS hospital and the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi were not disaster resistant.

“Retrofitting has already begun in Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital and Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Hospital.

“All the new wings coming up in AIIMS, Safdarjung and Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital will also meet these criteria,” said the official.

The six AIIMS prototypes would also be able to withstand disasters like earthquake and flood, he added. In Delhi, two new hospitals, one in Dwarka and the other in Rohini, will also meet these criteria.

“All those buildings that are old are being assessed and steps would be taken to retrofit them.

“We are working on the structural and non-structural mitigation. We will first target hospitals in the high seismic zones and the coastal areas of India where the threat of tsunami is high,” he added.

He said states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi are taking steps to make their hospitals withstand any disaster.

“Lots of activities started after the tsunami (2004) and the Jammu and Kashmir (2005) earthquake in India. We have the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in the country, which also looks into this aspect,” he said.

The official said about 25 percent of the states have set up their own disaster management authorities.

The NDMA issues guidelines and safety steps to safeguard humans if a disaster strikes in an area.

Another health official said all hospitals in Gujarat have been assessed and about 10,000 architects and engineers provided training to design such buildings.

India is taking steps in this direction following the WHO, the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the World Bank launching the World Disaster Reduction Campaign.

WHO, which is spearheading the campaign in the southeast Asia region and will promote the concept of making disaster resilient health facilities in its 11 member countries, Tuesday launched the campaign in the region.

The global launch was in January in Davos, Switzerland.

Hospitals need to do contingency planning, said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO deputy regional director.

“Hospitals need to conduct risk assessment and vulnerability tests of not only their area but the areas they serve too,” Singh said.

“Apart from a safe hospital, we need to have human resources to tackle the surge of patients that would be impacted by the disaster.

“For nurses, doctors, surgeons and health workers to be able to give their best to people when disaster strikes, it is essential to have a health system and facilities that can withstand disasters,” she added.

In this region, hundreds of hospitals and health facilities are damaged every year by natural disasters such as earthquakes, storms and floods.

Millions of people are left without access to health facilities during and after disaster, Singh said.

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